Western Province rugby legend, Jongikhaya Reginald Mrwetyana believes the discipline instilled through sport plays a vital role in shaping the community.
The 67-year-old Gugulethu resident is a tall and charismatic figure who has an easy manner with neighbours, and jokes with those who pass by the NY49 field.
Mrwetyana said it was sport that kept him away from social ills. His teammates, who were older and more mature than him, mentored him to stay on course.
He represented the province in both football and rugby, as a striker and a fullback, in the mid 1980s.
He shared with Vukani some of his memories which though humourous, took place in the dark days of apartheid.
In between the tear gas-filled protests, Mrwetyana found his way to the field.
Ta Shower or Langesi, as Mrwetyana is known, said what he admired most about the old days is the unity and discipline that existed, whether on or off the field.
In soccer, there were always these two older guys that would always compete fiercely during their games, however, he said, off the field, they were the best of friends.
And, in rugby, it was the same. The family they built on the field, remained for years after they stopped playing.
Mrwetyana said it was football that opened the gateway to his employment at the Post Office in Gugulethu in the 1970s. He was referred to the job by a teammate and spent close to a decade there.
He also remembers how in the 1970s he had two derbies to play, for both his football and rugby teams, Aces Football Club and Springrose Rugby Football Club, on the same day, at the same time, on the same field.
He told his friends he will be back in a few minutes but he couldn’t choose which team to play for on the day.
Knowing very well he wasn’t going to come back for either game, he ran and hid in his grandmother’s house until both matches were over.
Mrwetyana used to play for Buffaloes Rugby Club but was scouted by Sipho Monakali at Springrose.
“He told me to grab my boots and come to training at Roses. Bhut’ Mncedisi Daba organised the field now known as NY49, it was just an open field at the time,” he recalls.
“We used to organise games from here to Port Elizabeth where we (Springrose Cape Town) would play against the Springrose (Port Elizabeth) that side. We played against Springrose at Dan Qeqe, in Zwide.
“I remember in this one match, I was furious because I outran our winger to track down Zola Yeye. Yeye was the fastest guy in Springrose. I closed him down.
“I played with Bomza Nkohla, Themba Ludwabe, Mlungisi Radebe Madlingozi, every man had pride in their game,” said Mrwetyana.
He also remembers an incident when the NY49 filed was filled with manure for a whole two weeks. Parents were furious as their children couldn’t play there and a protest arose, only to find out that the manure was to help the grass grow.
Mrwetyana also recalls protests during the country’s turbulent years where men wore dresses and covered their faces with handkerchiefs because they did not want to be recognised by the police.
He mentioned how once some women at NY1 in now Steve Biko Road helped an overweight man who could not outrun the police during a protest. They pulled the man out of the road, into a nearby house, hid him, and sang out loud to distract the police search.
Mrwetyana’s brother Ndzuzo Manona, said Mrwetyana is friendly, jokey and a helpful member of the community.
Manona, who coaches Gugulethu Hustlers Basketball Club, said he was taken in by Mrwetyana during a rough time in his life.
Mrwetyana treated him like he was one of his kids, and that gesture inspired Manona to give back to the community through basketball.
“It’s difficult to start a development because people think you can only achieve it when you have money. Well, he inspired me to have a team that I can play for and try to create a development for Gugulethu.”